Behind the Kazakh, the GC battle went back on simmer, with Ineos Grenadiers bossing the bunch and Jumbo-Visma and Mitchelton-Scott lurking close behind.
Though there were no time gaps between all the top yellow jersey contenders at the end of the stage, Julian Alaphilippe launched a late sprint from the bunch to snatch back one second on his rivals having lost 20 seconds to a time penalty Wednesday.
With Adam Yates in the yellow jersey for another day, does Mitchelton-Scott have the firepower to defend the lead for long? What’s Alaphilippe’s plan for the rest of the race? And is Ineos Grenadiers back as top dog?
Time to roundtable!
Yates retains the yellow jersey – does Mitchelton-Scott’s “stage hunting” team have the legs to go all the way to Paris?
Fred Dreier (@freddreier): No. But, Yates could realistically hold the jersey until stage 15 or even stage 17, which would be a huge opportunity for Mitchelton-Scott, and a career-defining achievement for Yates. That’s why it’s such a shame that Julian Alaphilippe took that illegal feed and lost the jersey, as he could have realistically held the jersey for the lion’s share of the race for the second year in a row! I just don’t see Yates on the same level as Egan Bernal or Primož Roglič on the biggest climbs. Thus, I see him falling away in the third week.
Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): On paper, they’ve got the riders to reform themselves around a run at GC, with Mikel Nieve and Esteban Chaves top climbing support for Yates, and Jack Bauer, Chris Juul-Jensen, and Sam Bewley adding brawn for the flatter stages. And with experienced heads Matt White in the team car and Daryl Impey as road captain, Mitchelton-Scott has the makings of a classification team. They proved in last year’s Tour they have the ability to pivot their ambitions from one target to another when they took four stage wins, but they may lack the sheer firepower of Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma.
Dan Cavallari (@browntiedan): Anything’s possible, but as the mountain stages start to mount, Mitchelton-Scott will have to contend with the likes of Jumbo-Visma and Ineos-Grenadiers. Alaphilippe was the only GC contender to show signs of life today, too, so it doesn’t seem like he’s willing to go down without a fight. Yates’ road to Paris in yellow is a long one — not impossible, but not likely.
Alaphilippe jumped out of the group of favorites to snatch one second back in the classification – is this a sign of frustration or yellow jersey ambition?
Dan: I’m sure it’s both. If anything, Alaphilippe likes to animate races and give the cameras something to get excited about. It never hurts to give it some extra gas, especially with the GC competition all content to sit safely in the peloton. A couple seconds here and there certainly add up; we haven’t seen the last of Alaphilippe, so perhaps this was an investment for a bigger day for him down the road. One big day of glory puts him right back in the mix.
Fred: Neither. Alaphilippe is a showman and an entertainer. He has built his reputation on his panache. That attack was a sign to the French fans that he has not given up on taking back the yellow jersey, and that he will try anything possible to get it back.
Jim: I would say it’s a venting of frustration. Alaphilippe has long stated he wants to win stages rather than trying for GC, and with him off the leash doing that, Deceuninck-Quick-Step can center itself around Sam Bennett and the green jersey. I think this is just Alaphilippe being Alaphilippe – racing with his heart.
Ineos Grenadiers went back to bossing the bunch while Jumbo-Visma surfed the wheels. Was this a tactical move by the Dutch team or is Ineos looking to reassert dominance?
Fred: I think this was Ineos Grenadiers trying to restore faith in its riders that it is capable of controlling the peloton on a climb. This was a morale booster, and nothing more. I think that Jumbo-Visma saw the squad’s intentions and decided to rest its climbers for later in the race. After all, we’re just six stages in, and Jumbo-Visma has already done a lot of work.
Jim: A bit of both. Ineos Grenadiers was likely reeling after the pounding it took during the Orcières-Merlette stage earlier in the week, and wanted a chest-beating day in charge to show they’re the guys who have won seven Tour titles. And with Ineos keen to do the work, Jumbo-Visma likely decided to save their bullets for another day.
Dan: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Ineos is a smart team; in the first few days it showed chinks in the armor; was that on purpose? Ineos has been quiet at the Tour before only to snatch yellow when it mattered. So today seemed like a good day to give Jumbo-Visma notice: we’re still here, we’re still strong, and we’ve done this before. That said, Jumbo-Visma has spent a lot of time at the front so far during the first few stages; perhaps today was an opportunity to lay low and keep the powder dry.